Monday, January 26, 2015

Catholic Schools Week and Why We Love Them

This is a repost from last year...feverish kids and an impending snowstorm are my excuses for not writing a new post...forgive me!

Two years ago, Phil gave a talk at a church about the importance of Catholic school education.  Last year, I wrote about the Seven Reasons we Choose Catholic Schools.  Once again Catholic Schools Week is upon us, and I would like to offer an insider's perspective to any of you who are considering your child's future education.


I was lucky enough to have attended Catholic school from 7-12 grade, and then go to a Catholic college for my undergraduate and graduate degree.  Phil's first job out of graduate school was working at our local Catholic high school (where we both now work) and we are able to send our kids to Catholic elementary school.  Their school is from preschool through 8th grade, and after they graduate, they will come to our high school and complete their entire school education in a Catholic school.  Can I possibly type Catholic school any more? ;)

So I feel *qualified* to proclaim the awesomeness of Catholic schools from my unique perspectives.
Maggie's 1st backpack

1) As a student:

After having attended public school on Cape Cod from 1st through 6th grade, I was begging my parents to let me switch schools.  I was being pulled from my science class to tutor a classmate in math, and not challenged in any of my classes because I would finish my work and have to wait for everyone else to catch up.  Their were fights in the cafeteria, girls wearing scandalous outfits to catch the boys eyes, and kids talking about things I knew I shouldn't be hearing.  My mom could see how unhappy I was, and let me tour the Catholic middle school that was an hour away from our house, and I fell in love.  The students were respectful and disciplined, everyone was wearing modest uniforms, and what I remember most were the "knicknacks in the hall" that I couldn't get over because they would have been broken in a second back in the public school hallways.  Remember, this was a public school on idyllic Cape Cod, not some inner city hoodlum, and still the difference was ginormous.

Mother's Day Tea with my Andrew

Somehow my parents scraped up the money for me to attend, and I just thrived. The classes were so academically challenging that when I got to college, I remember thinking high school was much harder!  The smaller class size meant the teachers knew us individually and our classmates were all friends.  There were plenty of social opportunities (like sports teams and clubs) that I never felt deprived in any way.  After getting through most of high school in a nice Christian environment, I knew a Catholic college was what my heart desired.  

John-Paul as St. Michael for All Saints Day

The five years I spent at Steubenville were so important as I matured into adulthood.  To be surrounded by other young adults who took their faith seriously only called me on, and I watched in pain as my friends from home went to secular colleges and lost their faith.  Learning in a faith-filled, disciplined, respectful environment is a priceless gift.  

Eamon's Preschool Graduation

2) As an employee:

I just love working at a Catholic school.  We have Mass or morning prayer offered every day, Confession is once a week, and Adoration occurs on the First Friday of every month.  Where else can you work with those type of perks?  The teachers in Catholic schools really do it for the love of educating these kids, and I think the kids can feel it.  We all have to sign a contract agreeing that we are practicing our faith, and live our lives accordingly.  

MS Walk with our high school

When their overqualified math teacher chooses to work here for less pay as opposed to a public school for more money, the kids understand the teacher's priorities.  Every class begins with prayer, and morning announcements start with a prayer and a list of intentions.  In the art/music/theater department, songs and plays are chosen while being mindful of the type of values and morals we want to share.  Sports teams meet in the chapel for prayer before a game.  We just sent 100 students to the March for Life in DC last week.  There are constantly donations being collected for charities in the area.  Doing good deeds for others is expected and encouraged and made to seem normal.

Coworkers giving their time and talents to charity

3) As a parent:

Before John-Paul was old enough to go to school, I worried about his education.  I wanted the best for him and for me the best meant Catholic school.  I thought about homeschooling as a distant second but honestly did not want to do it.  I think being a mom that homeschools out of necessity but hating it probably wouldn't have made the best homeschooler, you know?  

Eamon on Career Day (We can only hope!)

I prayed a lot about how we could afford Catholic elementary school, went to visit one of many in our area (we are so lucky) and fell in love with the school.    The 4 year old class was in the middle of end-of-the-day-prayer when I was taking a tour, the 8th graders were busy cleaning the classrooms (service is expected), and the best preschool teacher ever was gently waking up the 3 year olds from their nap.  One little cutie woke up and looked at me with marshmallow fluff smeared on his cheek, and gave me a big smile and I was sold.  

John-Paul and a classmate performing at the Ed Fair

After leaving the tour that day and feeling such conviction that John-Paul was meant to attend (but how?), I got a phone call from the Business Manager saying that they actually needed a bookkeeper and if I wanted the job, I could work from home.  Say what?  God answered my prayers!  Now we could afford to send him.  And that cute little fluff-faced boy? He is now a classmate and friend of John-Paul's!  

My oldest boys heading back to school

This leads me to a very important note - if you want your child to go to Catholic Schools but think that you can't afford it, please do the following:

1) Pray

God has no limits to His generosity, and if it's His will, then He will find a way.

2) Apply for financial aid and scholarships

Back when I wanted to send John-Paul to school, we were a family of (almost) 5 living on a teacher's income.  We definitely would have qualified for help, but I didn't even think to do it.  

3) Think outside the box

Now that I am the Business Manager at a Catholic school, I see all sorts of opportunities for people to afford Catholic schools.  Some people (like us) work for the school in order to get their kid's education.  Some parents volunteer their time at Bingo, or other fundraisers in exchange for tuition assistance.  Some parents go in at night or on the weekends and clean the school, or offer whatever talents they have - tech assistance, legal help, tutoring, or coaching a sport in order to afford tuition.  Most parishes will offer a subsidy to help offset the costs, all you need to do is talk to your pastor for help.  Sometimes a relative would be more than willing to invest in your child's education.

What I'm saying is that if your child receiving a Catholic school education is that important to you, try anything to make it possible.  Don't be embarrassed to ask what you can do to help send your child there.  We are Christians and helping one another is what we are called to do!

All Saints Day 2010

I hope and pray that all you Moms and Dads out there who truly desire Catholic schools for your kids will find a way to make it happen.  It was and continues to be the best thing my parents ever did for me, and we are seeing all the benefits of giving the same gift to our children.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Upon Further Review

You know the whole brouhaha that Pope Francis stirred up when he said:

Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood.

You've heard about it once or three thousandce? Well, at first I was upset at his comments, because I mistakenly thought he was saying that Catholic couples with big families were behaving like rabbits.  But what the other Colleen pointed out to me was that he said some people THINK that they have to be like rabbits to be good Catholics.  

See that difference?  It's an important one, because I think at times, I have been in that category myself.  I have thought "Hmmm if I'm trying to be a good Catholic, and I'm truly open to life, and I have the ability to conceive babies so so so super duper easily, then God wants me to have a big family."  

Now I'm not a believer in having as many children as humanely possible without ever considering any other family information.  I learned NFP well during my time at Franciscan, my husband has two theology degrees and teaches it all day every day, and we knew that there were serious reasons a couple could validly use to postpone another baby through NFP.  It was that whole serious reason clause.  What exactly constituted a serious reason?  How about the fact that we have been pretty poor (like barely paying the bills even with the most simplistic lifestyle and government aid in the form of WIC and health insurance assistance)?  Well, we thought that God had always provided for us in the past and trusted He would continue to do so in the future.  We really believed, and still do, that all babies come with "a loaf of bread" and can see, looking back, that all our needs have been met either through work opportunities to increase salaries, or gifts from generous people in our lives.  It seemed hard for us to justify in America, an economic reason being a grave one.  

What about the health of the mother?  Well, luckily I was a young and healthy mom who never had any real issues being pregnant or delivering babies.  Yes, I got morning sickness, but that was par for the course, and I was able to get back to normal pretty soon after having each baby.  No grave reason there.

How about the effect a new baby would have on the other kids in the family?  Again, we felt there was no serious reason for us to abstain for this reason.  Our oldest became a brother at 19 months, and as the babies continued to come, we could only see how much the other children benefited from the gift of siblings.

I would often turn to the Catholic readings and blogs for clarification, ask priests both inside and outside of the confessional for advice, and pray all the time for clarity and wisdom.  You see, if there was one area in my life where I tended to scrupulosity, it was this one.  I would always tell Phil, when discussing our family size, "I just don't want to be judged by God for not having the children He wanted me to have."  It always seemed that the obvious answer was just to be open to having another baby, instead of risking being selfish or unfaithful and postponing another child.

So that is why, upon further pondering, I feel like Pope Francis lifted a small weight off my shoulders when he said that we were called to Responsible Parenting.  Something I knew, but always brushed off too easily.  In the past, when I was at home with the kids, and when they were smaller and more inexpensive, I probably didn't have serious reasons to avoid another pregnancy, and obviously I'm glad the way it all worked out.  How could I not be thankful for the blessings I received in each one of them?


“Every family is a cell of society, but the large family is a richer, more vital cell, and the state has much to gain by investing in it.”
~Pope Francis

But for now, at this time in my life, having a large family already, having to work full-time to provide, and therefore having to pay someone to raise my babies during those hours away from home, I feel justified by our Holy Father.  Responsible Parenting is what I am called to do, and right now our emotional and financial well being and the needs of our six children are definitely reasons serious enough to try and postpone another baby for the time being.  

A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. - CCC 2368

Will I ever say I'm "done" having kids?  Nope.  I don't think that is Responsible Parenting either, because who knows what the future holds?  Responsible Parenting is evaluating everybody's needs every single month and praying to discern God's will while using the natural cycles He created us with in accordance to achieve those goals.  And so I am grateful to Pope Francis (even though I wish he could speak more eloquently and clearly sometimes) for giving me the permission to know that God is calling me to more than just being like a rabbit, He's calling me to responsibly parent these bunnies I already have.

P.S. Phil read this before I posted it, and said "I agree with you, but I just wish everyone didn't always have to clarify what the Pope meant when he talks."  He's totally right, yet, maybe that's the Pope's whole point?  Do tell.

Friday, January 23, 2015

7QT: Hoops, a Hoop, and an Oops

Whew, what a week!  So glad it's Friday and we don't have much on our schedule for the weekend!

1)

Eamon and Maggie started basketball a couple weeks ago, and I love watching them play on the same team.  Eamon is a super speedy ball hog and Maggie is a slow-motion ball passer.  They crack me up.

Eamon:



Maggie:



2)

I was on amazon.com the other night, researching weighted hula hoops after reading Andrea's success.  After six kids, no matter how much I work out and do ab work, I can't seem to whittle my waist back to pre-baby size, well, I'll gladly take after the 2nd baby size.  Let's not be crazy. 

 I yelled out to Phil:

Me: Hey, honey, think we should buy a hula hoop?
Phil: Yeah, the kids would like it.
Me: No, it would be for us, to add to our exercise routine.
Phil: I can't hula hoop.
Me: No, it's a weighted hula hoop and it says anyone can learn to hula hoop with it.
Phil: OK, how much is it?
Me: Well it's kind of expensive.
Phil: Like $20?
Me: Ummmmmm
Phil: Like $30?
Me: Uhhhhhh
Phil: Like $40?
Me: Yes!  Can I buy it?
Phil: Happy Valentine's Day.

So romantic, that one.

3)

Me practicing with said hula hoop here. Why do I insist on making a fool out of myself?


4)

The next day at work discussing how hairy our nostrils are getting with age.  

Phil: We should buy a nose hair trimmer.
Me: Happy Valentine's Day.



5)

Speaking of hairy, I am getting my haircut and highlighted in a week!  I'm excited as I haven't colored my hair in years, but due to the arrival of my first gray strands, coloring will resume promptly.  I have tons of weird baby hairs growing in that are a few inches long since the Postpartum Hairloss of 2014, and they are driving me nuts, they just stick up!  I'm hoping my hairstylist can figure out a nice and easy cut and routine for me.  I wouldn't mind looking like Dwija or Jolie.

6)


My awesome faux-daughter and my kid's babysitter extraordinaire left for her semester in Austria yesterday.  She is first visiting Ireland and then will head to Gaming, Austria through Franciscan University's study abroad program.  The same program where I met Phil 15 years ago today-ish.  Anyways, I sent her with a little Jesus toy we had in our house, and she named him TJ for Travel Jesus, and started an Instagram account to post photos of everywhere TJ and her go this semester.  You can follow her @traveljesus

7)

Oh the Patriots.  


Why must everyone hate on them so much?  


Look at poor Tommy trying to prove his innocence:


I hope this all gets straightened out in time for purely pleasurable Superbowl watching.

And that's a wrap.  See more Quick Takers with Kelly.  


Have a great weekend everybody, see ya on the flip side!